( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Jessica Myers And Davonne Reaves Are the Youngest Hotel Owners in Black History
ENSPIRE Contributor: Anastasia Hanna
Photography: Tahir Register @ItsTahirColeman
Jessica Myers and her business partner, Davonne Reaves, made headlines after the duo acquired the Home 2 Suites in El Reno, Oklahoma, a deal valued over $8.3M, landing them the title of the youngest Black hotel owners in the industry. The two had joined forces in 2018 to create something “epiq” through Epiq Collective, an investment firm specializing in hotel acquisition. Myers recently announced the purchase of six single-family homes as part of the “Lovers Oak Cottages” project in Brunswick, Georgia. The estimated $500,000 project will provide much-needed affordable and quality housing for potential residents.
With 10+ years of training and industry experience, Myers has renovated over $15M in real estate assets since starting in 2015 and specializes in purchasing off-market properties and building a dedicated team to generate optimum success. While real estate affords Myers the opportunity to build a legacy, her greatest passion is building other entrepreneurs and pushing others to achieve their highest potential.
ENSPIRE Magazine interviewed Jessica Myers to get details on how she got started, the challenges she and her partner had to overcome, advice for new investors, and more.
You started in 2015; that’s just 6 years ago. What did you do before starting in real estate? When you started in real estate in 2015, what was the first year like?
Before starting in real estate, I was working in media since high school. I started out at our local Fox station here in Atlanta, which took me all the way to CBS in New York. If you know anything about media, New York is the #1 market to achieve, and I’d gotten a job in sales by 22. What’s next? I worked so hard, since 17, to get to the top, and there I was at the Nick Cannon morning show.
I spoke with my dad, and he said, “You spent so much time climbing the ladder. What if the ladder is on the wrong wall?” That struck me to the core and sent me on a journey of self-discovery that ultimately led me to real estate. It was a paradigm shift—not working for others’ dreams but defining my own, and real estate gave me the flexibility to do just that.
When I first started in real estate, I became a wholesaler. I always thought you had to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to get involved in real estate, but I learned about wholesaling, a technique that didn’t require me to risk any capital and allowed me to still learn the investing side of the business. Through wholesaling, I was able to generate my annual salary in 90 days, allowing me to fire my boss and really get into it. Within my first year, I was able to start doing projects, and I set out on a mission to acquire 1,000 doors.
How did you and your partner, Davonne Reaves, get started in real estate? What were some challenges you both faced as partners, and how did you overcome them?
Davonne and I connected in college, at the Village, where she got her start at the Hyatt, here in Atlanta. She’s had a long-standing history in the hospitality arena, managing billions of dollars in assets for hotel owners. We’d often go to lunch, and she was telling me the same concepts we were doing in the single-family space can be applied to the commercial space and that I could own a hotel.
That was HUGE! Something I thought would never happen until I was in my 50s or 60s—something I thought wouldn’t be the height of my career… until we partnered together to do the impossible. I set a goal to own 1,000 doors, and a hotel would definitely get me there faster than merely one house at a time.
The toughest part of the journey was realizing we signed up to achieve a goal that neither of us have seen or had a roadmap to. We were just determined to acquire a hotel. We started searching and came across a lot of deals—several of which never saw the light of day, but we never gave up.
We spent a year and a half searching, even through COVID. The pandemic actually created the perfect conditions for finding opportunity. Most millionaires are made in a down economy, and this was the perfect time to take action. And that’s what we were able to do—come together, overcome obstacles, and get the deal done.
You seemed to have advanced quickly. How did you achieve so much success in such a short time?
Through collaborative economics and networking, I was able to cut out a lot of the time it would have taken me to do it on my own, but I also learned a lot getting my start as a real estate wholesaler. Learning about asset values and the economics of a deal gave me just the experience I needed. And of course, the guidance of my business partner, Davonne Reaves, who has 15+ years of experience in hotels and asset management. We joined forces on this epiq deal. What we have is truly magic.
Can you tell me a bit about your acquisition of the Home 2 Suites in El Reno, Oklahoma, with your business partner, Davonne Reaves? How did it feel to close such a huge deal?
After looking at so many deals, I was beginning to lose hope, and thought maybe our dream was too big, but less than a week from that, one of our investing partners presented us with this deal we couldn’t refuse—a property valued over $10M—and we were able to acquire it for less than its value.
This was a concept I learned from wholesaling, how to find an asset under retail value and make a play. When we received the clear to close, it was definitely a feeling of relief; we did it. It reminded me of the 17-year-old girl that set out to just make a difference, and that’s just what we were able to do. It feels very humbling to have accomplished such a tall goal that, in the beginning, felt insurmountable.
You invested in a hotel. Was that always a desire that you had, or was there an opportunity that prompted that decision?
We started out looking for a commercial deal. We were looking at hotels, strip malls, multi-family, and deal after deal, it just didn’t fit our criteria. Then came the pandemic. We thought the shutdown would have slowed everything down, but actually that’s when the opportunities presented themselves.
Owners were looking to liquidate their portfolio (willingly and unwillingly), which made a great opportunity to get a property well under its retail value. This opportunity just made sense. With our partnering investors and team in place, we were able to pull the trigger.
You and Reaves basically made history becoming the youngest Black hotel owners. What are you hoping to achieve as new hotel owners?
I am on a mission to generate 1,000 doors. Initially, we were just focused on achieving our goals and getting a deal closed, but the more networking events we went to, the more we noticed that less than 2% of hotel owners were from our community. That was a problem, especially when we’re responsible for spending trillions of dollars in travel. We want to break down the barriers of what’s possible and present a roadmap to success. We may be the youngest, but we’re working to make sure we aren’t the last.
How are you advocating for social justice and financial literacy through real estate development, especially in undeveloped and underserved communities? Your “Lovers Oak Cottages” project in Brunswick, Georgia seems to tie into this. Can you tell me a bit about this?
I’m very fortunate being from Atlanta, where I’ve seen community leaders fighting economic injustices for decades. Some of our smaller towns and cities don’t have access to the same resources. That’s why I’m passionate about our “Lover’s Oak Cottages.” Lover’s Oak is a community in Brunswick where I purchased six properties on the edge of this historic district.
I follow the jobs, and Travis Stegall, the economic and community development director in Brunswick, has big plans to revitalize the community and provide jobs. Currently, there are several homes below market value, making this the prime opportunity to invest, increasing affordable home ownership and building generational wealth.
What are some common obstacles real estate investors run into, and how can they overcome them? What are some mistakes investors often make starting out and should avoid?
Finding a good deal is a huge obstacle investors often run into. There’s only one way to know if a deal is a deal, and that’s by doing it. We can plan it out for months and months, and sometimes years and years, but the only way to know if it’s a good deal is to take the chance. What do you have to lose?
You either earn or learn; there’s no loss. It is still important to educate yourself on the different investing strategies, to find the one that best works for you, but pull the trigger. Take the leap, but do so responsibly. A common mistake for new investors is to be too trusting. Contracts should be in place for a reason, to protect you from the unforeseen circumstances. Be sure to have them, no matter how informal the deal. You always need to be protected.
Is there anyone important in your life who inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship?
My father. Back when I was in third grade, I sold the most candy in school. Even in middle school, I had a keychain making business. He saw the entrepreneur in me, even when I didn’t, and he nurtured that skill, even challenging me in college with the understanding that the corporate path I was chasing wasn’t the fulfillment I desired by alerting me my ladder was on the wrong wall.
What are your views on the importance of Black wealth and ownership?
According to the Urban Institute, we have a 41% homeownership rate compared to our counterparts at 76%. For so long, our community has been left out of the equity and ownership conversation, but most of the world’s millionaires achieved success through real estate ownership. With capital, the sky’s the limit for what you can produce, but most of us are starting our careers with little to no capital.
Banks will allow you to borrow funds to start your dream/vision, as long as you have collateral to back the loan. This is how ownership changes the game no matter what industry you’re in. Having an asset to leverage for more capital gives you access to money to fund your dream. When you own a property, you can leverage that asset to make a larger play. That’s why it’s important to own land, to build wealth that can be passed down.
Any tips on how to run a business successfully during a pandemic? How do you promote growth and expansion confidently during tough times?
If this season of change taught you nothing else, you should understand the meaning of pivoting, being nimble and flexible to alter your business and service with the current economic times. Even our investing strategies had to change. The way we analyzed a deal and how we projected growth for our project was impacted by the pandemic. It forced us to think outside the box. It’s like Blockbuster and Netflix. Staying the same won’t get you anywhere, you have to change up your business model to find ways that allow you to continuously service the needs of your clients.
Can you tell me about your Concrete Coins podcast? Who should take your Wholesaler to Hotel Owner course? Can intermediate and expert-level real estate investors benefit from the advice on your Concrete Coins podcast and Wholesaler to Hotel Owner course too?
Concrete Coins is a space where beginner and intermediate investors can come and learn how to get their start in real estate investing and design their path to wealth by navigating obstacles in the day-to-day life of investing. We also have our course from “Wholesaler to Hotel Owner,” which teaches low-risk real estate investing techniques that allow you to learn the industry without having to risk your own capital.
I was able to generate over $50k in just 90 days through this process, and we break it down into simple, easy steps so that you can achieve the same results. I’ll be launching a master developer course this summer, so stay tuned to itsjessicamyers.com for more information. This course will be designed for intermediate and expert level investors to gain the field experience of building a project from the ground up.
Be sure to stay connected through my Instagram and also on my website.
You know you got it. Let’s get it. Let’s go!
For even more updates on real estate investment with Jessica Myers, you can follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.